Milton Keynes Lightning will start gearing up for the 2012-13 season this Saturday when the first of three scheduled friendly matches sees them take on the Telford Tigers at Planet Ice.
Lightning head coach Nick Poole took the difficult decision over the summer to release several players including Michael ‘Muzzy’ Wales, Matt Towalski and Barry Hollyhead. In their places came a raft of new players including Nick Chinn and Adam Calder, combined with having retained key players like Leigh Jamieson and Lukas Zatopek, the Lightning have justifiably high hopes of mounting a genuine challenge for silverware this season.
Telford, meanwhile, retained the British core of their roster with players including coach Tom Watkins, Luke Brittle, Declan Ryan and Joe Henry all returning for another season. Forwards Scott McKenzie and Josh Bruce left for Manchester Phoenix and Slough Jets respectively, with Slough also the destination for import D-man Juraj Senko.
The Tigers will be aiming to improve on the 277 goals conceded last season, and have signed young Elite league prospects Marcus Maynard from Nottingham Panthers and Stephen Chalmers from Dundee Stars to help plug the leaks. They are joined on the back line by 22-year-old Czech defenceman Jaroslav Kruzik on his first venture into UK hockey. Import netminder Greg Blais has left the Tigers after just one season, with Declan Ryan’s services already secured.
A young Telford side also struggled to break down opposition defences last year, so to address the problem this season they have signed more Elite league experience in the form of Tim Burrows, a product of Telford’s youth system who put in over 50 appearances for Cardiff Devils last season. Jaroslav Cesky - the second highest scoring import at Swindon Wildcats last season - also brings goalscoring expertise which could be crucial if Telford are to avoid being the EPL’s anchor team again.
And to really get the fans in the mood ahead of the new season, Lightning unveiled their new kits on Monday night. The three new shirt designs, each sported by the players themselves, feature a radically different central logo for the coming season, which combines the number seven - the number of trophies won by the team since their formation a decade ago - and a strikingly different font.
The match against Telford faces off at 7pm on Saturday September 8 at the Planet Ice Arena in Milton Keynes. Tickets purchased before close of business on Friday September 7 are discounted compared with on-the-night prices.